One fascinating new idea in predictive, personalized medicine is starting to gather momentum in South San Francisco. Nodality, a Stanford University spinoff from the lab of biologist Garry Nolan, is now on the cusp of going commercial with technology to help Big Pharma companies, and doctors, better understand why individuals respond differently to drugs, and how to craft the most effective combinations of treatments for an individual patient.
Nodality made news back in March, when it secured a $15.5 million financing led by the venture arm of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Laboratory Corporation of America (NYSE: LH), and which included previous investors Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, TPG Biotechnology, and Maverick Capital. The money was supposed to go toward Nodality’s commercial rollout of a new test to predict the success of certain treatments for acute myeloid leukemia, and guide physicians trying to treat this deadly disease. The commercial push is now just a couple months away, so I caught up with Nodality CEO David Parkinson earlier this week for an update.
This is certainly a huge problem Nodality is seeking to solve. Only about one out of every 10 cancer drugs that enters clinical trials ever passes all the tests to become an FDA-approved therapy, and scientists often struggle to explain why so many of them fail. Even the ones that do make it on the market often only help about one-fourth of patients, and even with all the molecular biology tools in the world, doctors and drugmakers can seldom predict in advance which patients are likely to respond, and which won’t.
Nodality’s big idea is to run biological samples from individual patients through modern tools for counting cells at high speed, called flow cytometers. With specialty chemicals customized in-house, Nodality uses antibodies to bind to important intracellular proteins that are tagged to show how active they are in a given tumor sample. Armed with that data, Nodality’s team uses proprietary software to look for specific patterns in the biological pathways of a patient’s tumor that will give the doctor a more vivid idea of the malignancy he or she is up against. By knowing what’s happening in the biological pathways, it should provide doctors with better information to form a treatment strategy to keep the individual patient alive and well.
“These are truly predictive tests,” Parkinson says. “We think we have excellent tests, which will allow physicians much more certainty when they talk to patients.”
The company is still being somewhat coy about the business details thus far. Nodality has secured partnerships with two major pharmaceutical companies that it hasn’t yet announced, and … Next Page »